Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Three Blind Photographers

2 Jun 2011Recently, a friend of mine emailed me a story about a blind photographer. I had a look at his work, which was amazing, considering, he couldn’t see a thing... While researching about him, I also came across two other astounding vision impaired photographers, so I just had to share all three of their stories with you, I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed learning about them.

Kurt Weston was an up and coming fashion photographer for an international styling company during the 1980’s. In 1996, due to an AIDS related illness, called CMV Retinitis, Kurt completely lost all sight in his left eye, and was left with only peripheral vision in his right eye.

Wondering how he could continue his passion of photography with such poor eyesight, Kurt thought he would never work again. But he was wrong. Now, not only does he create AIDS awareness, but Kurt also is a successful vision impaired photographer.

In one of Kurt’s exhibitions, which was called ‘blind vision series’, where he showcased self portraits, he wanted to show himself the way that he sees himself. Through an ordinary camera, he wasn’t getting the correct results, so Kurt decided to use a regular computer scanner. He would spray the scanner’s glass with cleaner, then lay tinsel on the glass, and press his face up against it, scanning his face in different poses. The results are amazing, and show the blurriness, like that of an impressionist painting, that Kurt sees.

In another series, Kurt took photos of gardens and of flowers. Using a computer program, he amplified the shots, to show the colours that would not normally be visible to the human eye. He says it’s how a bird or a bee would view nature.

Bruce Hall was born legally blind with a condition called Optic Nerve Hypoplasia. This basically means, Bruce has only 5% vision in both eyes. Bruce has been taking photos since the age of nine. He can see clearly 3inches from his face. With the introduction of the latest technology, Bruce was able to use digital cameras to see objects that he wanted to photograph, clearly.

In his 20’s, Bruce decided that he wanted to learn how to scuba dive. When asked if he had any disabilities that could affect his diving ability, Bruce told the instructor that he had no problems. When he couldn’t see his instructor underwater, he merely told him that he had forgotten his glasses. After becoming certified in scuba diving, Bruce began to take underwater shots. Out of about 999 photos, he got 1 good one. He realized that he had found a new love, underwater photography, and he wanted to learn everything there was to know.

Bruce has also taken part in an exhibition called ‘Sight Unseen’ where he photographed his two autistic twin boys from underneath the water, and out of focus, with the most superb results.

Pete Eckert was diagnosed with a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa in 1983. He was legally blind, but was gradually losing his sight, eventually becoming totally blind. He told his then girlfriend, Amy, that he would understand if she didn’t want to stay with him, once he lost all sight. Amy and Pete stayed together and have now been married for over 25 years.

Acquiring this incurable condition, it took Pete 2 years to recover. He was trained in sculpture and industrial design, with plans to study architecture at Yale, but was working as a carpenter when he began to lose his sight, he was fearful that with an unemployment rate of 85% for the vision impaired population, in California, where he was living, he would never find a paid job.

Pete found his late mother in laws old camera in a draw one day, and thought it would be a funny idea for a blind man to take photos. What he didn’t know, is that he would have a gift, a natural talent for photography. His talent has earned Pete prizes in photography exhibitions around the world, including first place in a show in New York in 2008.

Wanting to become as independent as possible, Pete earned his black belt in martial arts, and got a guide dog called Uzu. Pete and Uzu were hit by a car while legally crossing the road a few years ago. While being a scary time in his life, Pete decided to use this to inspire him for an exhibition, using ghosting techniques of cars lights over the top of other images.

Pete says that his inspiration for his ideas come from the 1930’s and 1940’s. He likes to photograph in black and white and says that he likes to show sighted people what it’s like to live in his world, even with the flaws, because the world can be a scary place full of strange and unknown things.

These three amazing men were featured in a short documentary by Damon Stea, called Obscura, it shows how they see the world and the way they interpret that into film. It’s a very interesting short film, click here to view it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6gD9TMqVGo

These men’s talent astonishes me, it’s so wonderful to see that despite what they’ve all separately been through, they’re still able to overcome their battles and carry out their passion. The human spirit is so resilient, it amazes me more and more, every day.

Self portrait series - Kurt Weston
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Seasons in the prayer garden series - Kurt Weston
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Seasons in the prayer garden series - Kurt Weston
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Underwater shots - Bruce Hall
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Underwater shots - Bruce Hall
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Sight Unseen - Bruce Hall
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Sight Unseen - Bruce Hall

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